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Building the Perfect Exercise Routine for You

CrossFit seemed like a great exercise program to try when Niki Campbell was exploring exercise options a few years ago. A few minutes into her new workout, she realized how wrong she was. “As soon as I saw the big, dirty tire that I was supposed to flip, I thought, ‘I just had my nails done and I’m going to break at least one.’ I knew it wasn’t for me,” she said. Now an avid spin enthusiast, Campbell founded The Flourish Group, a company dedicated to empowering individuals to become healthier, stronger and more confident through both personalized one-to-one and workplace/organizational based wellness programs.

Niki Campbell, The Flourish Group
Niki Campbell, The Flourish Group

Campbell created The Flourish Group after a successful career in the corporate world as a corporate communications executive and speechwriter. Facing her own health issues, she decided to take stock in her lifestyle and look at not only her interest in fitness, but nutrition as well. As she began to study dietetics, she realized that she wanted to learn more and went on to complete a Master of Science in Health & Human Performance. While pursuing her education, Campbell established The Flourish Group. “I decided that I wanted to coach, and help others make behavioral changes to become healthier and stronger,”

she said.

Finding a successful wellness program is very individualized, Campbell explained. As she found out through her own CrossFit experience, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to exercise and nutrition. “We start off by asking each person ‘What is your goal?’ Do you want to be healthier, do you want to build strength, flexibility – what does that look like to you?’” she said. The next step is to determine what types of activities the client enjoys. “You might like a high intensity workout. Maybe you prefer a class format because you are motivated by other people. Some people just like hiking by themselves,” Campbell said.

The next important factor is to determine what is sustainable. “What can you do to budget time and to make it happen in your reality? We help them figure it all out,” she said. And that “figuring it out” itself can take on many forms such as trying various types of exercise, keeping a food diary and having accountability with the wellness coach.

Frank Velasquez Jr.
Frank Velasquez Jr.

Taking stock of where each individual starts out, goals and availability are all important to success. “Everyone is starting at a different point and has different goals,” Campbell said.

Frank Velasquez Jr., Director of Sports Performance at Allegheny Health Network, also stressed the need for every individual to receive an initial assessment to know and understand their own specific needs and goals. “Where are you starting? Where are you tight? Where are you loose? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Everyone is different,” he said. That assessment includes questions about medical history, wellness habits and other fitness determinants and goals, as well as examining physical conditions, such as range of motion and strength.

As a certified athletic trainer, and strength and conditioning specialist, Velasquez has his own impressive background when it comes to assisting others in finding a fitness program that works. He also served as the strength and conditioning coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to Velasquez, after ensuring that each client has a clean bill of health from their primary physician and the assessment, a personalized program is developed with the individual’s goals and ability in mind. Clients come to the Sports Performance team either by referral for physical therapy or on their own to build strength and fitness. “Many who start with physical therapy stay on as strength and conditioning clients,” Velasquez said.

Strength and conditioning specialists work with clients on building the exercise program to best assist them in achieving their goals. As part of the wellness evaluation and programming, specialists also look at issues such as hydration, sleep and eating patterns. “Little things can make a big difference. It is recommended to practice sound nutrition, hydration and sleeping habits to maximize the time, money and efforts spent in training,” Velasquez said. When necessary, clients are referred to other experts, such as a sports nutritionist.

Working with a professional helps to create a manageable program. It can be easy to take on more than what is feasible and feel overwhelmed. “It is important to know and understand where you are starting and where you feel comfortable,” Campbell said. “If you want to learn how to strength train and get into a routine, but you are intimidated at a gym – we figure out where to start and what program will work.”

While many folks may look at weight as a goal and measurement of success when it comes to fitness, Campbell urged that fitness is not just about weight loss or numbers. “Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes,” she said.

For those wanting to take steps for a healthier lifestyle, Campbell suggested starting to look at “the why.” “Why do you want to achieve a certain goal? Create a goal that makes sense to you. Are you losing weight to have more energy? To be healthier? How can you achieve that?” she said.

While looking at your lifestyle, habits and goals, don’t be afraid to try new things, Campbell urged. CrossFit might not have been the ideal exercise for her, but she never would have found that out had she not tried it. And she never would have found spin classes, which she loves. “Be open to trying new things. Many exercise classes and programs offer the initial class or even the first week for free. And find out what your employer offers or what your benefits cover,” she said.

The most important step to better fitness is to do something, Campbell said. “Just do something. Take some sort of action towards better health. It may be packing your own lunch, taking a walk at lunch, taking the stairs, taking a break every hour to get some movement into your day,” she said. And some exercise is better than none. “If you have just 15 minutes, then just take a quick walk. You don’t need an hour for it to count,” she said.

Velasquez also stressed taking action towards a healthier lifestyle sooner rather than later. “You have to want it, but the sooner you get started, the sooner you will find that the quality of your life improves. It is so easy to just get started with an evaluation,” he said.

“It’s a lifestyle. You don’t reach a certain point and then stop training or eating healthy. It is a way to live your life while keeping on top of things. It requires a good life balance – we find when people get away from their wellness and exercise routines, they just don’t feel as well,” Velasquez said.

For more information about Flourish Group visit or call 412-501-3069, email

Visit Allegheny Health Network Sports Performance at or call 724-934-2440.

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